TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 4


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Country Music Association awards, 8-11 p.m., ABC.

Lots of familiar
names are here: Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley host and perform
for the eighth straight year. Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan, who host
the competing ACM awards, also perform; so do Miranda Lambert, Jason
Aldean, Zac Brown, Little Big Town and Florida Georgia Line.

But there will be
fresh combinations – Keith Urban and John Mellancamp, Dierks
Bentley and Lindsey Stirling, Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake,
Reba and Brooks & Dunn, Eric Church with Thomas Rhett, Hank
Williams Jr. and Fall Out Boy. Also performing: Sam Hunt, Kacey
Musgraves and more.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Arrow,” 8 p.m., CW.

NBC's “Constantine”
was a ratings failure ... at least by big-network standards; CW's
“Arrow” is a hit ... at least by micro-network standards. That
makes them sort of equal, so here's a crossover.

Flashbacks show that
Constantine (Matt Ryan) owes Oliver a favor; sometimes, a guy really
needs a friend with exorcist-type skills. Sara has been brought back
to life, creating lots of fierce-female battles. Ryan, a talented
guy, seems out of place near the stiff acting and dialog of “Arrow.”
So does director John Badham, who once knew greatness with “Saturday
Night Fever” and “War Games.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Nova: Making North America” opener, 9 p.m., PBS
(check local listings)..

If all our teachers
were like this, we might have actually learned something in geology
class. Kirk Johnson of the Smithsonian Institution combines sweeping
landscapes and impressive special effects.

We see a continent
that's been in constant – albeit gradual – change. There are
palm-frond fossils in Alaska, remnants of vast sand dunes that
coveredd the West, a massive lake in the Midwest, a mountain range in
Manhattan. There are signs of a giant rift that almost split us in
two. This hour, launching a three-week series, ranges from a current
volcano in Hawaii to a long-ago one in Minnesota.

Other choices
include:

“Rosewood,” 8
p.m., Fox. This show is at its worst when focusing on the captain,
who seems like a collection of bad scenes from old cop shows. Now
he's a murder suspect; an awful first scene signals what's ahead.
Meanwhile, Dr. Rosewood's police colleague fumes after seeing him
kiss her psychiatrist. “This thing we're doing, it's like a virus,”
Rosey says. It certainly feels like one.

Movies, 8 p.m.,
cable. Disney has “Enchanted” (2007), a clever tale with a
princess transforming from a cartoon into Amy Adams. Sundance has
“The Outsiders” (1983), Francis Coppola's richly emotional film
stuffed with young stars -- Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Diane Lane,
Patrick Swayze and more.

“Empire,” 9
p.m., Fox. The early end of the World Series means this ratings-hit
only had to miss one week. Now it's back, with Lucious and Cookie
setting aside their fierce fights, to protect their kids.

“Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. A reality show about a devout
family has presented its 13-year-old as virtuous and virginal. Now
she's pregnant and police investigate.

“Gone With the
Wind” (1939), 9:45 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. In many time
zones, this will be strictly something to record. A great epic, it
continues until 2 a.m. ET.

“Code Black,” 10
p.m., CBS. Here's the question most medical shows include: What if
you must decide whom to treat first, a wounded cop or the man who
shot him?

“The Brain,” 10
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Even basic decisions seem to be
affected by physical factors few people understand. We meet a woman
who is normal in other ways, but lost the decision portion of her
brain; a grocery-store trip is a blur. We see how much easier it is
to decide life and death if – like a drone pilot – we're not
directly involved. And we learn that lap dancers make more money at
different points in their menstrual cycle; the decision to hand over
money is affected by pheromones.

 

TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 3


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
The Grinder, 8:30 p.m., Fox.

A tough start for
Fox got even worse when the World Series ended early. The good news
for viewers: This show and “Grandfathered” -- good comedies,
still waiting to be discovered – can return.

On “Grinder,”
Dean (Rob Lowe) realizes that women only like him because of his
former TV show. Then his high school sweetheart (Christina Applegate)
professes to be a book person who doesn't own a TV. It's a sharp
episode, with great moments for Mary Elizabeth Ellis as Dean's
sister-in-law.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Grandfathered,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Two straight guys
pretending to be gay? That tattered old plot suggests a lot of bad
farces.

Still,
“Grandfathered” manages to add some fresh twists tonight. It's
all tied into parents' current desire to impress pre-school
admissions people ... and Jimmy's (John Stamos') desire to impress a
beauty (JoAnna Garcia Swisher). There are fairly funny moments as he
pretends to be his son's gay lover.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Manhattan,” 9 p.m., WGN, rerunning at 10.

Speculation, soap
opera and history share turf here, in a combination that would seem
absurd if it weren't so beautifully written, directed and acted.

Robert Oppenheimer,
head of the atom-bomb project, once wrote that he almost became
engaged to Jean Tatlock – a psychiatrist and a Communist – before
marrying someone else in 1940. Rumors of an affair weren't verified,
but here that provides the core of a story that peaks powerfully
(and, at that point, coincides with history). Also, the real-life
Albert Einstein has pushed to free the fictional Frank.

Other choices
include”

“Best Time Ever,”
8 p.m., NBC. This grand experiment – a live, free-form show – was
only scheduled for eight weeks. It's been so-so, with a sharp host,
clever hidden-camera stunts and big finales, but other elements that
fell flat. Now it wraps up.

“The Muppets,” 8
p.m., ABC. Kristin Chenoweth sings with the band ... promptly causing
a rift.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Occasionally, this show focuses on Ducky – played by David
McCallum, 82, the former “Man from UNCLE” co-star. Tonight, he
reluctantly admits having a secret society to solve cold cases. His
colleagues are played by Jessica Walter, 74, and Richard Riehle, a
mere 67.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. Brody's mom (Annie Potts) employs a genius
composer who is getting a transplant – until the heart is stolen.
Now the team scrambles to find it.

“The Voice,” 9
p.m., NBC. Now the show has its top 20, ready to start the live
rounds on Monday. First, here's a review of how things got this far.

“Chicago Fire,”
10 p.m., NBC. When one of the firehouse people faces a near-disaster,
colleagues link. Also, Herrmann tries to re-open the bar and Severide
pushes the arson investigation.

“Wicked City,”
10 p.m., ABC. Cable channels gave us killers with good – or, at
least, interesting – hearts. Now ABC inexplicably gives us a
heartless killer (Ed Westwick). The look and sound of 1982 Los
Angeles packs adrenaline, but tonight's story leans to the
despicable.

TV column for Monday, Nov. 2


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” 8 p.m., CW.

If the “Crazy”
songs were stripped away, this would be a neatly offbeat comedy.
Savor the scenes, for instance, after Harvard-educated Rebecca
ghost-writes a job application for hunky Josh.

Then there are those
songs, showing what's going on in her imagination. The first one is
sort of what a sexy video would be like, if done by an
obsessive-compulsive diva. The second – black-and-white and
1940s-style, complete with tap-dancing – has Josh's friend making
the simple plea, “Settle For Me.” Written with wit and filmed
with style, the songs make “Crazy” a delight.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Supergirl,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Last week's debut
offered the triumph of an individual – good-hearted, ignored, then
suddenly a hero. This second episode retreats from that a bit,
becoming more militaristic. Kara still has solo missions, but must
spend much of her time training with an alien-fighting organization.

That gives
“Supergirl” high-octane action ... plus villains who are super
enough to hold our interest. It also takes away some of the show's
charm; fortunately, there's enough left to keep us watching,

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Black Work,” any time, www.acorn.tv.

Jo (Sheridan Smith)
is a British cop, flailing at life. Her husband, a police detective,
seems distant; her friend Jack, also a police detective, wants to be
more than a friend. And then ...

Well, we'll let the
surprises unfold. The three parts (released the next three Mondays),
offer intriguing twists. Smith – burdened by a rather awful haircut
– projects an overwhelmed-but-determined soul.

Other choices
include:

“The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. The “knock-out round” concludes, giving us the
top 20.

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Hayes Grier was ousted last week,
leaving seven stars. Tonight, the solo-dance winner gets immunity;
others will have face-offs, with viewers voting.

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. Isn't Batman the guy who dislikes guns? This hour (set
before young Bruce Wayne became Batman) has bullets flying during two
mega battles. It also has stylish visuals, tough dialog and the
future Riddler, who accidentally killed his girlfriend without
(really) using a gun.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. For 65 years, CBS had situation comedies on Mondays. They
went from “The Goldbergs” to “2 Broke Girls,” including
“Lucy,” “MASH” and “Raymond.” That ends tonight, with
“Supergirl” plud two more dramas. Here, Paige and her son are on
a sabotaged, runaway train.

“NCIS: LA,” 9:59
p.m., CBS. Sam's former partner disappears, after buying a bomb
undercover.

“I'll Have What
Phil's Having” finale, 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Phil
Rosenthal says he grew up assuming Los Angeles is a taste wasteland.
His view changed during years producinng “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
This amiable hour takes us from the Farmers Market to a restaurant
run by former gang members. Rosenthal and friends – Ray Romano,
Norman Lear, etc – savor the choices.

“Fargo,” 10
p.m., FX. Ed Blomquist (Jesse Plemons) is a decent chap who just
wants to buy the butcher shop where he works. Problems arrive with
his wife Peggy (Kirsten Dunst). First, she drove home with a killer
on the car hood; Ed had to dispose of him. Now she wants to spend the
money on a self-help seminar. That's one part of another great
(albeit violent) hour, wrapping up TV's best night.

TV column for Sunday, Nov, 1


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Sports collision, NBC and Fox.

After getting big
ratings each Sunday, NBC has its most promising football game yet:
The Green Bay Packers visit the Denver Broncos at 8:30 p.m. ET. Here
are undefeated teams; each has a great quarterback (Aaron Rodgers,
Peyton Manning), but also leads its conference in fewest points
allowed.

That should be
enough, but there's more: Barring a sweep, Fox has the fifth game of
the baseball's best-of-seven World Series. The Kansas City Royals
visit the New York Mets, at 8:07 p.m. ET.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Librarians,” 8 and 9 p.m., TNT, rerunning at 10 and 11.

Now that his other
TNT series (“Falling Skies”) has ended, Noah Wyle has more time
for this one. He's in these season-opening episodes as Flynn Carsen,
who was the centerpiece of the “Librarian” movies.

Now there's an
entire team – led by Rebecca Romijn – to find classic artifacts
and face classic villains. In tonight's first hour, an ominous storm
looms. In the second, Prospero is assembling some of fiction's great
villains, including Frankenstein's monster and Sherlock Holmes'
nemesis, Moriarty.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Breakthrough” debut, 9 p.m., National Geographic.

For years,
Geographic seemed too much like other networks; now it's regained its
taste for epic documentaries. A prime example is this imposing series
– six top directors, tackling imposing subjects.

This opener -- Peter
Berg (“Friday Night Lights”) viewing pandemics -- is ponderous at
times, until reaching its riveting story: Ian Crozier is an American
doctor who contracted Ebola in western Africa. He surprised
colleagues by surviving after 40 days of isolation ... then faced an
after-effect. It's a riveting story that Crozier and others tell in
the quietly passionate style of good doctors.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Home Fires,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

All of the crises of
wartime England have been packed into this British village. The
doctor, for instance, is dying ... one of his daughters is a war
widow ... the other is having an affair ... and tonight, his wife
pushes a way-too-drastic solution for a friend with an abusive
husband.

There's much more in
this second-to-last episode, including a conscientous objector, a
secret lesbian, a surprise evacuee and a bomb-shelter crisis. In
other hands, this would be dismissed as noisy soap opera; “Home
Fires,” however, offers a gentle subtlety that makes these
characters worth rooting for.

Other choices
include:

“Ash vs. Evil
Dead,” 1:10, 3:25, 7:30 and 11:30 p.m., Starz. If you missed the
Halloween debut of this series, here are more chances. Be prepared
for something that is alternately gory and goofy; it's skillfully
directed (Sam Raimi) and acted (Bruce Campbell), but clearly not for
everyone.

“Madam Secretary,”
8 p.m., CBS. This series imagines that the Russian president has died
and the U.S. fears a shake-up. Also, the cyber-security chief tries
to find the people who hacked into Air Force One.

“Explorer,” 8
p.m., National Geographic. The return of this monthly series is
another sign that National Geographic has returned to its old
ambitions. Tonight, Bill Nye ponders climate change.

“The Good Wife,”
9 p.m., CBS. After doing little for big money, Howard Lyman (played
by Jerry Adler, 86) accuses the firm of ageism. Also, Jason (Jeffrey
Dean Morgan) gets tough as a detective.

“Masterpiece:
Indian Summers,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). This nine-week
series was at its mid-point last week, before launching its main
story. The mysterious woman in the woods said Ralph Whelan – top
aide to the viceroy – is her son's father. Tonight's overheated
hour starts as she pulls a theft and ends with tragedy. In between,
his sister Alice faces an accuser and we see Ralph's rage.

“Quantico,” 10
p.m., ABC. In the early time frame, the FBI recruits study
surveillance ... and put it to quick use. Flashing forward, Alex –
on the lam as a murder suspect – gets help hacking FBI computers.

TV column for Saturday, Oct. 31


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Supergirl,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Monday's debut was a
ratings hit, drawing 13 million same-day viewers, but you might have
missed it. Don't fret; t's a bright, fun show (except for a few
fights) that families can see after trick-or-treat time.

This is not one of
those brooding, reluctant superheroes we're used to; like Hiro in
“Heroes,” Kara (Melissa Benoist) embraces her fate gleefully. A
lowly magazine assistant, she suddenly can be like her cousin –
flying and fighting evil. She brings a joy that spreads to viewers.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: Sports overload.

On a night when we
should focus on Halloween, we're tugged in all directions. The World
Series' fourth game (Royals at Mets) is at 8:07 p.m. ET on Fox, with
pre-game at 7:30, facing college football.

At 8 p.m. ET, ABC
has Notre Dame (ranked No. 8) at Temple (No. 21). At 7, cable kicks
off; it has Michigan (No. 15) at Minnesota on ESPN, Tulane at Memphis
(No. 16) on CBS Sports, Vanderbilt at Houston (No. 18) on ESPN2 and
Texas at Iowa State on Fox Sports1.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Ash vs. Evil Dead” debut, 9 p.m., Starz, rerunning
at 9:45 and 11:30 p.m. and 12:12 a.m.; plus four times Sunday.

You really didn't
think Halloween would end with trick-or-treating, did you? The gore
will continue.

For 23 years, Ash
(Bruce Campbell) has kept his hardware job and a low profile, being
careful not to waken the dead yet again. Then – on a drunken night
with a lady -- he recited the forbidden words; now the dead are back.
The result has much gore and little story; but it's spiced by Sam
Raimi's zestful direction and Campbell's quirky comic touch, making
it a fairly entertaining show for grown-ups.

Other choices
include:

Halloween lite,
cable. The Disney Channel reruns “Toy Story of Terror” at 9 and
9:30 a.m., then has the Haslloween episodes of its comedies. The
Cartoon Network has a movie-length Scooby-Doo (“Frankenweenie”)
at noon; ABC Family has “Hocus Pocus” (1993) at 7 and 9:15 p.m.

“The Librarians,”
10 a.m. to 8 p.m, TNT. The second season will start Sunday, with two
new hours ... and with more involvement from Noah Wyle, star of the
“Librarian” movies. First, however, here's the entire first
season, with Rebecca Romijn leading a globetrotting team preserving
artifacts.

“Scream Queens,”
6 p.m. to midnight, FX. With a great concept and heavy-handed
execution, this show is off to weak start in the ratings. Now here
are reruns of all the episodes so far.

“Da Vinci's
Demons,” 8 p.m., Starz, rerunning at 10:30. Last week's
season-opener found Leonardo Da Vinci trying to defend Naples with his
military inventions ... only to be overrun by Turks using his ideas
against him. Now he must concoct something new to escape. It's a
strong hour, suffering from a harsh anti-Islam scene, but boosted by
the expanded role of women in palace intrigue.

“Doctor Who,” 9
p.m., BBC America. Shapeshiftinng alients – those are always the
worst kind – have kidnapped Osgood, Now the Doctor and Clara race
to find her.

“The Returned”
season-opener, 10 p.m., Sundance. The terrific first season of this
French series (with English sub-titles) began with people casually
returning home, unaware they had died years ago. This season begins
six months after they left town; questions persist, especially for
Adele, pregnant with the baby of the returned-then-departed Simon.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Amy Schumer hosts this rerun, with music by
The Weeknd.